Thursday, December 31, 2009

Seven Swans A-Swimming

Traditional rich Christmas colors look so homey and welcoming when everything outdoors is leafless and colorless. The neutral coastal cottage look is lovely in its place but during a Great Basin winter that look would chill the hardiest soul. I don't even use white lights in my decorating--colored lights add magic to our tree. While I'm already mentally rearranging sofas and bookcases for a fresh new look, we still are flaunting lots of crimson and emerald downstairs.

The holiday typically hangs on for the twelve days of Christmas which don't end until January sixth when the Magi arrive--I love having an excuse to postpone dragging out the bins and packing all the goodies away for another year.

I've heard a rumor that the Dollar Store has cute little bird votives now. They're on my weekend to-do list along with half-price thread at Joann. (I crossed the thread off the list since the Queen Mother and I just returned with a rainbow of half-priced colors. ) Birds (new and old, inside and outside) will be the perfect upbeat replacements when the red-and-green explosion comes to an end.

It occurs to me that as many of us continue to nest during these hard times, birds are the perfect home accent!

Six Geese A-Laying

Old news: our snowstorms definitely helped our snowpack when they hit. Shoveling that last dump was like lifting wet concrete. The water content was HIGH! Snow, when it sits for weeks and weeks, trodden by dog paws, snow boots and tires, becomes a hard shiny icy treacherous surface. It's a far cry from the diamond sparkles flashing at one on a sunny morning after the storm ends.

The safe bet is to stay inside and bake bread, browse through recipes, unearth unfinished craft projects, mend and iron, and dream. Or so I thought until today. I couldn't stay inside for one more instant, so Kharma and I ventured out to the pasture for a walk. Surprise! The streets have started to melt and we can see pavement. The dusting of snow earlier covered up slippery ice so walking was easy. Kharma had a blast sniffing for varmints under the snow. We had so much fun that we plan to take a last-day-of-the-year hike.

I'm enjoying winter, but planning for Spring--I spent a little time researching urban chickens today.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Five Golden Rings

Cozy Winter Favorites
  • A mug of hot cocoa
  • Homemade Soup--tonight's was Barley and Lamb
  • Homemade Chili fired by Hatch Valley chiles from NM--maybe on New Year's Eve?
  • Warming my toes by the fireplace
  • Fires made from pinecones collected on the Queen Mother's birthday, old Christmas tree trunks and our own oak logs
  • Snuggling under our red plaid down throw
  • Redwork embroidery while enjoying It's A Wonderful Life
  • Toasty toes in my sparkly ivory slippers
  • My blue muffler which doubles as an earwarmer
  • My Sorels, my Sorels, my Sorels
  • Colorful tree lights adding to the dinner ambiance
  • Dog tails wagging ornaments on the tree
  • Towels hot from the dryer
  • Waking up to light reflecting off new snow
  • Games played with family and friends

Monday, December 28, 2009

On the Fourth Day of Christmas

I don't know about you but I'm assessing all those goodies that came my way last week...

My willpower is perfectly illustrated at 1:25! Hit Pause on Playlist first.
The holiday season pretty much summed up in the lyrics (loosely translated): I become the chocolate woman/Let melt my Nutella hips/the blood which runs in me is hot chocolate. Sing it, baby!

Cut to me the hips with the axe/I ate chocolate too much. Ahhhh, Truer Words were never spoken.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Three French Hens

There are some projects so special--whether because of their uniqueness or cuteness or fun factor--that they become your signature item. I make elves.

I started with these three little guys. Let me introduce you--that's Casey on the left, Elmer is in the middle and Hal's on the right.I didn't name them. While I was working on these guys, they began whispering to me. No, I'm not loco--I think this phenomenon happens to many dollmakers. Or maybe not. As we became further acquainted I learned how old they were and what their jobs were at the North Pole.

Casey is 346 years old and works as a Toy Tester in the Boys Division. Elmer is the young'un of the group--he's only 120 and so is just an Apprentice Sleigh Packer. Hal is the eldest at 378 and has progressed to Toy Supervisor.

Casey and his pals lounge around our home each December. On their bench, under the tree, on a Christmas pillow, in a doll's rocker (which just happens to be the perfect size for an elf). The boys enjoyed posing them and moving them from place to place. We never knew where an elf would turn up or what he'd be doing.

For many years, there were only three elves. The boys grew and our nest got emptier. I finally decided that the kids were grown enough to deserve their very own elves and I couldn't part from my old friends. So Lance and Jacques came into being. Jacques went into Pierre's keeping last year. (I figured anyone grown up enough to own a house, especially a home that simply oozes hospitality and gets dusted with magic every December, deserves to be entrusted with (finally!) his special Christmas elf.

Somewhere along the line I gained an wonderful up-for-anything almost-daughter. I also inherited a step-granddaughter (woo-hoo!). I taught her to knit, draw what she sees not what her mind thinks she sees, and she taught me about Build-A-Bear. So this year I decided that two new elves would join the crew. But they couldn't be boy elves and my pattern didn't include dresses. So I sketched a couple thoughts down on paper...After spending some time on my trusty sewing machine and raiding my stash of Christmas fabrics I came up with these two cuties. Meet Solange and Gretchen:They now reside with Jacques in the wild hinterlands of New Mexico with my faraway family. Knowing that there are three little elves inhabiting Casa Coyotesong warms the sugar pine cones of my holiday heart!


Two words: Mr. Bean. Lambs. Okay, technically that's three words.

And you might want to pause my Playlist so you can fully enjoy the sound effects, sorry about that.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Merry Ho Ho Ho!

Survived--even enjoyed it! How could it be otherwise with the Christmas Spirit in every nook and cranny?

and lots of Santas. Santas in the kitchen,
Santas on the dining table, (I love my peppermint swirl candles!)

and the jolly old elf himself descending from the cold air return. He acquired a pack this year--about time.
And speaking about elves, their annual invasion occurred on schedule. They watch out for naughty and nice behavior even from my computer tower. He's trying to look chummy with Winston the Snowman, but he can't fool me! Definitely on the lookout.
Little elves given to us on our first married Christmas. They've been cozily sitting in many, many years of Christmas trees.
Elves resting after the Big Guy successfully arrived and filled the stockings.
Maybe they're hoping for a nice hot cup of cocoa.
All the animals dressed for the holiday, even the Reets crickets. Someday I'll have to post about the many Reets creations that decorate our home.
It's exciting but tiring. Even Kharma feels like taking a nap.
It's time to ignore the unfinished projects in my workbasket. They'll keep till next year.

I'd rather sit and enjoy the beauty of another decorated Christmas tree. The soft lights color the holiday perfectly. Each ornament comes with a memory of people and places.

I'll sit back and enjoy the peace of a white Christmas and remember my favorite part of the holiday.I can't resist lambs or babies.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Pogonip Tradeoffs

Last Monday we were gifted with a rare December pogonip appearance: So delicate. These crystals didn't get to grow very long, but still the leftover rose leaves were gorgeous. The yews were even more striking with their deep green coloring, but I couldn't tromp through the deeper snow to take their photo.

I was so excited about our pogonip and determined to take photos before I left for work, that I left my lunch behind and didn't realize it until I was in the school parking lot. I almost cried. The trails I'd stomped down the week before had disappeared under new snow and hiking through two feet of freshly-poured concrete would have been easier; it had taken me twice as long to slog through the snow as I'd estimated. I was very late, very tired, and lunchless.

Still...we had pogonip!

Friday, December 18, 2009

My Inner Child

The only two words almost as nice as Summer Vacation are Christmas Break!And I'm officially on mine as of 3:30 pm today.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Snowy Tails

There were dog tails, of course, as we took care of the "wildlife" after our snow storm.

Kharma obviously thinks that a cooking pot equals food, but under this Revere Ware pot, filled over and over with boiling water, is our pond and in the pond are five very cold goldfish without a breathing hole. There was a nice opening created by one of our soccer balls floating on the pond. (Yes, intentionally.) But sub-zero temperatures and twenty inches of snow kinda ended that good idea. Today I bailed out the extra water under the pan so I could try melting an opening again. Then I realized I was bailing out the pond! I can imagine those fish tails swishing happily right now as they can breathe again through their little skylight.
The dogs and I refilled all the thistle socks too. Not five minutes after rehanging them in our cherry tree, we had visitors. I can count fourteen goldfinches in this photo. The snow below is peppered with black seeds which some cute little black-headed birds clean up for us.Kharma, who's had a bird fixation since she was a teensy puppy, has left the wild canaries alone. Amazing! And Zelda, who usually slurps up excess seeds until they irritate her throat and reappear magically (to put it delicately), hasn't touched a one. If I didn't know better, I'd think our pups know that the birds are treading a fine line between survival and a wintery demise.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

A Snow Day

Brace yourselves, America, a storm is on its way. That ten degree morning temperature now seems almost tropical. My nose hairs gave that subzero twitch when I scraped away the last bit of snow from our driveway this morning. Brrrr. And another bitterly cold night in store before we get a little warmup. (Yeah, yeah, I know, all the Alaskans and Canadians are laughing at me calling minus two "bitterly cold". You're entitled--I do the same thing when the Calfornians start moaning about twenty degree nights freezing their pipes.)

It snowed for thirty solid hours. Just little flakes, but one after another after another--until fourteen inches were piled on every surface around our cottage. Our Christmas tree took on a new look while awaiting its move inside.
A day earlier it looked like this. It's really the same tree, honest!
Our outdoor furniture got new seat cushions courtesy of Jack Frost and Father Winter.
My favorite new garden accessories are the gnome hats that magically appeared on every solar lantern.That's Lilypad Pond hiding back there under a layer of snow and ice. Somewhere Nemo and his buds are wondering who turned out the lights on their pond.

Silly us, we didn't stock up before the storm so we're short on veggies. Thankfully, I never lack for projects. This gingerbread man is the first in my holiiday series of redwork embroidery and thanks to a snow day and a half at school, I was able to get a nice start.I sat in a sunny window and stitched away. I coulda shoulda been doing something else, but my little gingerbread man is my reward for not pigging out at breakfast.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Fir Sure

Tree Permit: $10
Gas: $12
Cutting our Christmas tree before the snow flew: Priceless

My sweetie muttered, "Costco," when we passed in the kitchen Saturday morning and I replied, "Christmas tree!"

We managed to make the Costco run and still install the roof rack... grab our jackets, gloves, snow boots and extra socks...pack a limb saw and some Christmas CD's...and leave for the Plumas National Forest before noon.

We stopped at the Williams House Museum in Portola, staffed by a cute older couple who could sub for the Clauses if necessary, and bought two permits: one for us and one for the Queen Mother. Then we sat in the parking lot trying to read the illegible map that the Forest Service publishes annually showing which areas are open to cutting. My plan was to head toward Quincy if possible, hoping to find both nice firs and some fresh sugar pine cones. We passed through Spring Garden and headed up Little Squirrel Creek toward the switchbacks leading to the higher elevations and better trees.

The temps were above freezing and the sun was shining as we stomped our way through the forest looking at trees. (I should probably say right now that we can't choose and cut a tree until we've looked at every tree around.) The manzanita, willow and other underbrush was so heavy that I soon fell behind. They were impossible to go around, so we had to go over, and my legs are the shortest ones in the family. Every step involved a high step onto and then balancing on springy branches while taking the next high step. What a workout! I eventually let my sweetie look for the perfect tree while I carted armfuls of pine cones back to the Forester, because I'm reconciled to the fact that although I propose lots of wonderful trees, he's always the one who finds the one we choose. Eventually we linked up again and chose a nice layered white fir for our tree and an "old-fashioned" fir for the Queen Mother.

The sun set just as we tied our trees on the roof rack for the trip back to the Biggest Little City. Our cheeks were rosy but our fingers were frozen from touching metal car parts as we tied knots in the ropes--thank heavens for the seat warmers in our Subaru! We drove back munching on crispy Golden Delicious from our tree, listening to John Denver sing Christmas songs, and anticipating spaghetti for dinner.

Today started slowly until we looked west right before lunchtime and realized that the predicted storm was arriving much sooner than expected, so we quickly headed down to the Queen Mother's home. We not only delivered her tree, but put up her icicle lights and assembled her lighted reindeer while the winds howled and the snow started to fly. Hot chocolate not only tasted wonderful but warmed our cold fingers when we were finished.

We started the day at ten degrees F and we ended it with an inch of snow, feeling good about getting the lights up and having nice fresh firs ready for decorating soon.