Monday, December 30, 2013

Lake Erie Effect

Lake Erie on Sunday was bleak and grey. Looking out towards Canada, we could see just a little ice. 

 Congealing in lumps..

Interestingly, this is not a good sign. If the lake doesn't freeze, cold air drifting from Canada meets the warmer air over the lake and results in everyone's favourite Western New York weather phenomenon, Lake Effect Snow. This can be nightmarish, as we've already experienced this year. Normally, the lake would freeze by January but who knows what will happen. It was well on the way to freezing before last week's warm blast.
  Below is the Buffalo Marina beach (sic), complete with rubbish, driftwood and a little strip of snow,
 looking out towards the harbour wall, Beyond is the vastness of the Great Lake itself.

And here the Marina wall and in the distance, the historic lighthouse.

We saw a lone fishing boat heading out. When the lake's frozen, ice fisherman set up their little huts on the ice a little further along the lake. Now they have to do it the conventional way. I pointed out to hubby that it was not a good day for sailing. He looked disappointed.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Reindeer Rest Day

 Boxing Day in America is a bit of a damp squib. Basically it doesn't exist. It's not a Bank Holiday, most people go back to work and Christmas is, to all intents and purposes, over. Though I did see one TV commercial for a local shop, advertising "Boxing Day" sales, to a background of Rule Britannia and marching soldiers in bearskins. I suppose some Americans have cottoned on to Boxing Day in the same way as Britons have, suddenly and inexplicably, embraced the most hectic and frazzling shopping day on the American calendar, Black Friday. In America that makes sense as it's the day after Thanksgiving but what  British shoppers make of it I can't fathom.
  Yesterday, though, I did spot some Christmas workers enjoying a hard-earned rest.

 This was at the local maple syrup farm, Spragues, which has a rather good restaurant, to which we repaired for some blueberry waffles with bacon and their home-made sausage. Not exactly British bangers; American "breakfast sausage" looks like hamburgers.
  There's plenty of fun for the kids..

..But they serve a mean Irish coffee too.
 Meanwhile, more snow's been falling and everything's looking pretty again.

But hubby and I, like a lot of Western New Yorkers, are starting to get into Florida mode.  Just a few more days........

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Happy (Merry) Christmas!

  Christmas greetings from Western New York.  Americans still tend to say, "Happy Holidays" but I've noticed that if you get in first with "Merry Christmas" (not Happy - that's British), they'll merrily say it back.  Beside being absurdly PC, I do think "Holidays" is a misnomer. After all the cooking and shopping and wrapping and decorating and rushing around, you need a holiday to recuperate.
   Plus it all seems a bit daft as crib scenes abound everywhere...

  This lovely, life size one comes courtesy of the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany, complete with both exotic and local animals (see the wolf on the left.)   Of course it's not on public land - so hasn't fallen foul of the PC thought police.
  As for me, while I still can't get used to having roast beef and Yorkshire pudding for Christmas, I have introduced some British touches, namely crackers. When I innocently tried to buy these in my early days here, I was directed to the biscuit shelves. This year we ordered them online but fearful they'd be late, we also found some in a shop in Buffalo. Of course the original lot did arrive on time (though they wouldn't have, had we not bought the others..) Well, they'll keep. And it looks as though we'll have a white Christmas after all.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Welcome to Florida North

 The weather this early winter is getting more and more bizarre.  Today the temperature rose to sixty degrees. And this is what happened to the poor old ski area.

Thursday's magical slopes are gone, replaced by ribbons of dirty white and mud and in the foreground, a flooded river. Heartbreaking for the owners - and the skiers - for this to happen just in time for Christmas.

 In fact, with all that snow melting at extraordinary speed,  a sizeable part of Western New York is under water.  These chaps are wondering what happened to their paddock.

And plenty of people have discovered an early Christmas present - a much coveted "inground" swimming pool in their back gardens.
  It was much much worse north of Buffalo. Here, with temperatures some 30 degrees below ours, an ice storm swept through, causing power cuts, power lines down, treacherous roads and all kinds of havoc. Whatever next?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

But Then Again....

 Up at Holiday Valley this morning

 The words "winter"

 and "wonderland"

 came to mind.

 The crowds were out

The snowboarders too, falling over as usual.

 On Mistletoe, the prettiest run, (or "trail" as the Americans say), a fairytale scene, as the snow suddenly blew off the branches in a mini blizzard.

 There was plenty left, though, to make, when it stopped, a glimpse of pure glory

The trees weighed down

 In an almost underwater world of strange coral formations

 Or stalactites.

  I've never seen it quite like this.  Feast on it while you can. For who knows what the weather will do tomorrow.

Update: The Pleasures of Living in Snow

See below.......

The Pleasures of Living in Snow

  This is what things looked like at Thanksgiving and it hasn't changed. We haven't had this much snow in November and December for years.  Since Western New Yorkers talk about the weather even more than Brits, it was a vibrant topic of conversation at my Book Club. Do we like living in snow? The consensus was a resounding no. "I liked the novelty; I don't like the reality", said one gal who, like me, had come from eslewhere, in her case, North Carolina. Then things got a bit more upbeat - like Statler and Waldorf, the two grumpy old men in the Muppets, people started to look at the positive side, "It is like living in a Christmas card", ventured one optimist.
  The first time I visited hubby-to-be on his home patch, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. It was January and the Christmas decorations were still up, snow coated the trees, deer scampered along the snowy roadside. We went ski-ing and drank hot chocolate and sat by a log fire. I thought he'd laid on on all this wondrous whiteness special-like.  And when the sun comes out I still get a bit of that feeling. What I do not like is the dirt and the slush and the icy roads and grimy cars covered in salt and dropping my beautiful leather gloves in the garage and having them land straight smack in the middle of a pile of filthy, melting snow soup that's fallen off the car. And lie there unnoticed until they're saturated, slimy and beyond hope. It wears you down after a while and its only December.  Yet I hear there's a thaw ahead, just in time to spoil our white Christmas, so I'm off to try the ski slopes in case it's my last chance.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Snowy Wastes of Siberia

aka Buffalo Airport on Sunday evening..

 Unlike Heathrow, these chaps know how to take a little of the white stuff in their stride.

Here are some snowploughs, discussing tactics.

The really scary bit was the drive home

The bright light was a sign warning of "severe weather conditions".

We didn't need to be told. There was a blizzard, nil visibility and crashed cars littering the roadsides.

We even saw a snowplough off the road. We got back white as sheets and shaking all over. Even hubby, who's been driving in snow for years. Welcome home to Western New York!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Another Un-American Experience

  Sitting in a well-known uber-touristy cafe on Piccadilly for half an hour before the waitress so much as brought a menu..
  "Are you actually a restaurant?" I queried.  I'm getting quite nostalgic for, "Hiya I'm Rochelle and I'm your server for today, how're you guys doing?... There you GO!.....Is everything OK?.... Is everything OK?.....Is everything OK?...Is everything OK?..........How's the salad dressing?.......Is everything OK?......Are you still working on that? ..............Is everything OK?......Is everything OK? ........Is everything OK?
You do have to tip her at least 20 percent for her trouble, though.
  Ah well, DV I'm back Stateside tomorrow. Watch this space....

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

London Fog

A real pea-souper this morning, just like the old days. At least British drivers have their lights on in the fog, unlike Western New Yorkers.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Very Un-American Experience

   Dateline London. Non-football fans look away now.
   Having suffered through Man United's ignominious defeat to Newcastle on saturday, the less said about which the better, my friend and I rushed to Piccadilly Station to get on the first available train home to London from the Theatre of Nightmares. It had been cancelled. So had the next one. And the next. It transpired some poor soul had been run over at Watford Junction, the knock-on effects of which were gargantuan.
  After an hour of staring at a static departures board, we repaired to a nearby bar to drown our sorrows. By the time we returned, we were sure the trains would be running again.  Not so. Well, that's not quite right. One was. And everyone wanted to get on it. The train was packed, not just with Man United fans but with Liverpool fans, who'd been shunted to Manchester, as no trains were running from Liverpool either. Normally that would be a perilously toxic mix* but in this case, the Liverpool fans proved gentlemanly. Well they could afford to be, since they had won and we had lost.  We had found seats but they had to stand. "Sorry" said my friend "but at least we've got something from today".
 "No worries," crowed the Liverpool fan,   "We'd have let you have our seats in any case."
     Then, at Stoke-on-Trent, to complicate things further, some Chelsea fans got on, disgruntled and slightly inebriated, as they had lost too.  The toxic mix could have exploded, if,  in a "love your enemy" gesture of  Mandela-like proportions, the Liverpool fans hadn't argued our case against the Chelsea fans, who insisted we were sitting in their reserved seats, "Leave the ladies alone, mate. They've suffered enough."
  Upon which, the young man sitting next to my friend, offered one of the Chelsea fans his seat. He also could afford to be generous. He was probably still floating in an unexpected daze of happiness and bonhomie.
  Everyone ended up agreeing on one thing - England's dire draw for next year's World Cup ("Men's World Soccer Championships" to my American friends, who probably can't understand.what the fuss is about. Though the US had a pretty dismal draw too.)  As a certain British tabloid put it :

*Memo to American readers: there is no loathing greater than that of the Liverpool fan for the Manchester United fan (and vice versa).

Sunday, December 8, 2013

A Lucky Escape

   For the next week, this blog will be based in London, where I'm on a brief family visit.  I seem to have had a lucky escape, getting here before yesterday's air traffic control shambles.  This is very unusual for me, as I normally find myself caught up in any flying trouble going.  I was here when the unpronounceable Icelandic volcano erupted and was stranded for a week. And I was here when Heathrow Airport closed for five days due to a few inches of snow and they tried to dig the planes out with garden spades, Heathrow having long forgotten that it's an airport and not a shopping centre with a few flying machines.
  Mind you, I did have a lot of trouble with trains from Manchester yesterday. More on this at a later date as I cannot, right now, bring myself to type the M word again. Football fans will understand.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Last of our Apples

A reminder of this year's extraordinary apple harvest.

We put the last of them into a strudel.

Though there are still plenty of them lef ton the ground for the deer to guzzle.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Western NY Tale: The Short Tract Road

There is a country lane to the east of us, called the Short Tract Road, possibly after a village called Short Tract. What many people don't know is that the Romans came here, oh, way before Christopher Columbus and built this road extraordinarily straight, though with few roller coaster dips for excitement. Here you see it, unfolding in the distance.

Short Tract Road has, to put it mildly, seen some better days.

Although it does have some of the most stunning views in Western New York.

Some places look beyond hope..

This once must have been a grand mansion

Now, like Sleeping Beauty's castle, it's alone and overgrown.

But in the past year or so, something extraordinary has happened to Short Tract Road.

Yes, these are Amish horses. The Amish, a gentle sect that live austere pioneer-type lives without mechanisation and electricity and bake the most wonderful pies, are moving in.

They have set to restoring a number of old farmhouses and building some new ones and immediately the place is looking more cheerful. Neat lines of dark blue laundry extend from the barns and all the junk - old cars and such that tend surround a lot of rural Western New York houses - has been cleared away.

  Driving along the road recently, we saw, fleetingly,  in the morning mist,  two great black horses pulling an enormous piece of farmyard equipment - one of those hay slides for a barn, perhaps. An Amish man stood, holding the reins, coaxing them into the yard. There waited three or four children, the little girls in long skirts and bonnets, the boys in brimmed hats, clutching lunchboxes. Perhaps they were on their way to the Amish school. It was a sudden, poignant vision of times past. Mindful that the Amish prefer not to be photographed, I have to leave it to your imagination.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Meanwhile, A Little Corner of a Foreign Road

That is forever England..

Taken of course before we were plunged into the white stuff. We see a lot of these trucks, with their Olde English logos and royal-looking crests. As I always say, I don't know why Americans ever severed ties with the Old Country, or, indeed, got rid of the monarchy. I'm not sure what C R England transports, save that it claims to be the world's largest refrigerated trucking company. But I can speculate. Marmite, perhaps, or Mcities Chocolate Digestives?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

On Transatlantic Understanding

This was before the snow got really deep.

Every self-respecting American house has its flagpole. I always notice that the Union Jack seems to fly somewhat more, well, flowingly, even though, by American custom, it has to fly below the Stars and Stripes, a matter of some teeth-gritting in our household. Note the old revolutionary flag with just thirteen stars. Hubby thinks it's rather pretty.

Friday, November 29, 2013

And One That Didn't

Though he did go to a good home.

Meanwhile the most snow I've ever seen for Thanksgiving since I came to WNY, shows no sign of relenting.

From this......
 ... to this.. seems, in just a blink of an eye.