Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy Hogmanay

May your troubles be less,
your blessings be more,
and nothing but happiness
come through your door!

It's Hogmanay...and the biggest New Year's Eve party on the planet is happening in Edinburgh right this minute.  If I were home, the sounds of fireworks and singing and wildness would be wafting in the air.  No, not wafting...buzzing and sizzling in the air.  Half a million people at one party is pretty intense.  And unforgettable.

Hogmanay means "the coming of midnight" and as far back as 4000 BC, was celebrated on the night of the Winter Solstice which used to be the end of the Celtic year.  The parties sometimes went on for weeks...though nowadays if you make it to sunrise on January 1st--still conscious--that's a real feat.  Alan and I did it four times...and I paid dearly for the experience.  You think you can party?  Ha.  Go to Scotland for Hogmanay.

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So, 2013 is nearly over.  Walking the boys this morning, on a very sunny Winter's day, I was reflecting on the year and what I've accomplished over the past twelve months...

  *  Finished my GoodReads Book Challenge, though reading is never a hardship; books are more like the air I need to breathe.  Still, I set a goal and did it.  And my reward was escaping into some of the best stories I've read in years.

  *  Started a serial, thinking it would be quick and fairly easy.  And learned it was neither.  I loved the experience--once it was over.  I'm not going to lock myself into another writing project like it anytime soon however.

  *  Against all odds--location, risks and fears--I managed to do 52 new things, one per week, in 2013.  Sitting here today, the weeks behind me, I can hardly remember the woman who struggled with what to do on Week One, wondering if such a monumental quest could even be achieved.  Smiling now, I say, hell yes.  It not only can, but it was.

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I find the start of a new year slightly daunting.  Yeah, it's exciting, but it's also scary, at least to me.  There's a certain comfort in knowing what's happened already--done deal and all that--but sitting on the cusp of tomorrow, the nebulous unknown ahead?  Yikes.

Still.  Time inexorably moves us along and all we can really do is fasten our seatbelts and do the best we can.

I have a few things in mind for the next year.  I'm going to start my 1000 Cranes project this week.  I've worked out that if I do around 20 per week,  I can be done by next December.  That's if I just do the 20.  I like the mindfulness of origami and think I will use the cranes for meditation, so I might make more than 20 in a week.  We'll see how it goes.

I've also decided to write a short story each month.  There won't be the pressure like I felt with the serial and I can let my mind flow wherever it wants, rather than be locked into one continuing saga.

Though this past year was rewarding and exciting, and I learned much, I'm looking forward to more freedom, of thought and deed.  It was hard some weeks to muster a shred of enthusiasm for the 52s, and really difficult to stick with the serial on those occasions when I'd painted myself into the Corner of Doom.  But all in all?  I'm really happy I kept going, even when I was discouraged.

The other thing I'm going to do in the new year is take a bloody holiday.  I don't know where or when, but I need to get out of Dodge, stretch my mind, broaden my scope, take a deep breath of adventure...

So, dear readers...thanks for stopping by, for hanging with me, for your comments and smiles.  I wish you all a most excellent 2014.


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Week 52 of the 52s...The Recap

I really don't know where to start in recapping this incredible experience.  It's been amazing, exciting, scary, grueling, with just enough failure to make the successes even more appreciated.

Last December, about this same time, I read an article about two women and their adventures in expanding horizons, broadening the scope of daily living.  It struck a chord with me.  I had been two years a widow, still a stranger in a strange land with all my friends and Alan's family in Scotland.  I was alone on a mountain with two dogs, a house too big for one...and spending way too much time lost in the dark inside my head.

I decided to make myself step out, do something new each and every week, though being in a very small town, far from the variety and choices in city living, might be a real obstacle to accomplish such a feat.  In Edinburgh I could have found things to do every day, but in a tiny hamlet in the wilds of Southern Oregon?  I didn't know.

But as it turned out, that's what made the 52s so cool.  I had to really try, really put effort into finding the new in each week's adventure, research events, talk to the ladies at the Visitor's Center, ask my neighbors.

In the early weeks I remember being timid, nervous, more than once forcing myself to keep going.  A few times I just tossed the boys in the car and drove for miles, meandering the unfamiliar country roads.  Sometimes I would talk to Alan, sometimes I would cry, but still I kept going, week after week.  And a curious thing happened along the way.  It got easier, I got stronger.  I began to look forward to each week, I regained my confidence, began to feel less a stranger and more an explorer.  

I entered a photo exhibition and one of my photographs was selected to hang in the Arts Center gallery; found all the covered bridges in the area; made Cafe du Monde beignets and ate them whilst drinking French Quarter chicory coffee; went to the theatre by myself; stumbled across a wilderness trail and an elegant bridge over the tranquil waters of the Little River; went to art shows and festivals and the Farmers Market; made Limoncello from a recipe I got in Capri.

My failures were always recipes.  When I would have a week where nothing came to mind or the weather was too dreadful to venture out, I would dig out a recipe, find something I had always wanted to try.  Two epic fails were the Naan bread, burned lumps of horridness, and the sweet potato/carrot/rice flour dog biscuits that Max wouldn't eat--a dog that would eat anything--and that Ozzy threw up all over the living room carpet an hour after swallowing one little piece.

It's slightly on the awesome side of things that I not only found something new and (mostly) fun to do each week, but I actually finished the whole year without missing a single one.  I learned much about the area where I live, found beauty in the quiet hum of my tires on country byways, savored foods from Louisiana to Mexico, and took risks even when I didn't want to.

So, a random moment last year reading an article gave me the idea I could perhaps expand my world, clear the tunnel vision from my eyes and explore new things, and maybe, just maybe, somewhere along the way, I might find myself again... 

It worked.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Merry Christmas, House

After two grueling Summers sweltering in my house, I decided at the beginning of December to replace the metal Venetians which just generate even more heat.  I love the plantation look of wider slat blinds, plus I wanted wood.  Then I discovered that Levolor does a faux wood that is actually better than real: it doesn't warp or fade, and repels the scorching heat of the sun.

Because I have eleven huge windows in the main room, I had to wait for a good sale, which luckily came with the Christmas deals.  After measuring each window space, I went to Lowe's and placed my order, expecting it to take weeks.  Less than ten days later, here comes the FedEx guy with the boxes.  I stacked them up in the garage and pondered how to hang them.

Then I remembered Jeremy (of the Ten Dollar Bill post from last year) who told me he would be glad to help out with any handyman chores I couldn't do myself, though his actual business is windows and gutters.  Still, I figure blinds and windows go hand-in-hand.

So I call him, and though he's really busy until after Christmas, we make arrangements for today.  I'm so excited!  Finally, I can get rid of the old crappy blinds and replace them with brand-new, two-inch plantation blinds.

The first blind.  Jeremy (on the right) and his very nice helper, Mark...

The left blind is the new, wider one; middle window is bare; if you look close, you can see the tiny slats in the old blind that hasn't been taken down yet...

Between us, we did all eleven windows in just over an hour.  I opened each box, sorted the parts and pieces, while Jeremy took down the old blinds, removed the hardware and replaced it with new, then Mark came after to install the blind.  Both guys were impressed that every single blind fit exactly as it should, especially as each window is slightly different.  Honestly, like a woman can't measure properly?  Still, it was cool that not only were my measurements correct, but Levolor manufactured them perfectly.

The difference is amazing.  It changed the entire look and feel of the room.  I love the wider slats, the wood effect, and the pull cord rather than that stupid wand thing for opening and closing.

My Christmas present to the house.  And believe me, we're both very happy about it...

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Catch Up and Christmas

I've spent the past two days floating in the euphoria of finishing the serial.  Sunday, when I posted the epilogue, I felt like my head was spinning off its axis with relief.  Either that or it was the Italian wine I drank whilst making Russian teacakes, followed by dancing around the house with wild abandon and sheer delight.

Back when I first started writing--when I was around eleven or so--all I could really manage at that stage were short stories, because really, I was just a kid.  I remember that first story was about a girl named Cricket and she liked to solve mysteries.  I wrote with a fountain pen (because that's what real writers did...right?) and I filled it with purple ink, sometimes red--what can I say, I thought it was dramatic.  I still have the stories, though the red ink has faded to brown and looks like dried blood.  (My eleven-year-old self smiles and says how cool is that?)

Anyway.  Once the serial got packed away, I had a flood of ideas wash through my mind.  It's like the dam burst.  The novella was finally done and all the flotsam and jetsam I've stored away over this past year bobbed to the surface eager to be salvaged.  It was really amazing.  I thought maybe the demons had fried my brain with that blasted Library of Souls, but no...I just needed to get it out of my head.

In high school I used to haunt this most excellent used bookstore and one day stumbled across O. Henry.  I've written about this before, I think.  Anyway, short stories became my forte.  This was before flash fiction became the coined phrase.  I love the succinctness, the brevity in telling a story in just so many words.

So, I'm toying with the idea of writing 12 short stories in 2014, one for each month.  Not so grueling as the serial, and they could be any length, whatever works for the tale.  I'm not sure if I want them to connect, or be totally separate entities.  I already have the first one written in my head, but I'm not getting into anything remotely concrete until the new year.  Right now it just feels really good to be free, to let my mind wander...

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Yesterday I had to run some errands, a mistake of epic proportions.  I might have mentioned before that my little town is basically nothing more than a crossroads for travelers on their way elsewhere.  Traffic was insane; nearly every car was from California, though I also saw an inordinate amount from Arizona.  I think the locals must know to stay home in the last days before Christmas; I had to learn the hard way.  I tried twice--morning and afternoon--to go grocery shopping.  The first attempt, I couldn't find a place to park and after going around and around with a dozen other folks, I gave up.  The second try was very short-lived.  The line to get into the parking lot wound out onto the highway for at least two blocks.  I just changed lanes and drove home.
This morning I gulped my breakfast, tossed the boys in the car, was at the store by 9:30, and still barely found a place to park.  Managed to get my stuff and get out in record time, though I was shocked to discover, as I maneuvered between the hordes, that most of the people were actually Christmas shopping.  For gifts.  On Christmas Eve??!!  Ah well, it's the thought that counts, I suppose.
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And on that note...
~~ Have a wonderful holiday, dear readers ~~

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Week 51 of the 52s...The Serial

I've had a really convoluted week, what with one thing and another.  My original idea for the 52s fell through and my second option bit the dust on Thursday.  I also didn't finish the serial on Tuesday, the 18th as planned (the one year mark when I started it), but that part was entirely my fault.

Tuesday, I sat down to write the final chapter.  I wrote one paragraph and the phone rang.  Finished that conversation, wrote two sentences, my neighbor popped in unexpectedly for a cup of tea and a chat.  Again, I sat down to write.  The UPS guy shows up.  Huh.  Didn't think I was expecting anything.  OMG.  It's two books that I pre-ordered months ago.  Two of my most favorite authors ever.  I've waited over a year for these books.  Now I have them in my hand.

Okay.  It's lunch time.  I put the books down, resolved to finish the serial before I touch either one.  I will maintain control, resist the siren call, ignore the yearning.   I feed the boys, make my smoothie, eye the books.  Well, it can't hurt to just peek inside, surely.  I'll just read the first page or so while I'm having lunch.  No harm in that.

If books were a drug, I would be laying on a seedy mattress in some abandoned warehouse with no family, friends, money or a hope in Hell of surviving my consuming addiction.

I read the first paragraph, then told myself I could take a few more minutes and read the first chapter, then okay, just one more then I have to get back to the serial.

~~ sigh ~~

I finished the book at 1:00 in the morning.

Was it worth it?  Oh yeah.  There's nothing better in the world to me than a book that is so well-written, so exciting, so totally absorbing, that I lose track of everything except the story.


So Wednesday I try to get back on track, but I can't find my rhythm, I've lost the plot (in more ways than one).  I find out my first plan for the 52s is a wash and I can't for the life of me think of something else.  What am I going to do?  It's the penultimate week!  Shit!

Thursday comes.  I make myself sit at the computer.  I flail. I fidget. I pull my hair. I wish I still smoked.  I used to get great ideas when I'd stand outside and smoke.  Then the phone rings.  It's the BFF.  She can't talk on Sunday for our usual call, so we spend an hour talking about not talking on Sunday.  We get off the phone, I make a cup of tea, I wander around the house.  My second idea for the 52s doesn't pan out.  I get so frustrated, I pick up the second book and start reading.

Yesterday, desperation is gnawing at me from all sides.  My mother calls.  Oddly, almost the first words out of her mouth are what I did for Week 51, then--salt meet wound--she goes on and on about how amazing it is that I have almost finished the whole year and never missed a week.  And, as if that wasn't bad enough, next she asks me if I finished the serial on the December 18th deadline!!

Holy crap.  Who knew she paid this much attention to my writing??  I'm embarrassed to tell her I am failing on all counts.

After I confess, she says, as if it's no big deal: "Finish the serial and call it Week 51.  Won't that work?"

"It would, but that means I'd have to actually write the damn thing."

"Well, get off the phone right this minute and go do it!"

So I did.

The last chapter is long.  Very, very long, but once I got rolling, it just...came together. After some editing, I posted it this afternoon, and will finish this whole experiment with the epilogue tomorrow.

This has been a really interesting exercise.  I've learned more, writing this serial, than I ever imagined.  It has been hard, rewarding, grueling and sometimes even fun.  There were a few times I painted myself into a corner and couldn't get out because once the chapter was posted, I couldn't make changes--it took me three weeks last Summer to find my way out of one paint job.  I had to work with my mistakes, somehow make the story cohesive when it was really just a big damn mess.  Had I been writing a draft, I could have gone back, corrected the errors, rewritten parts, but with the serial, I couldn't do that because there was no going back, the chapter had been posted and my words were now cast in stone...so to speak.

Would I do it again?  I don't think so.  Initially, I thought it would be easy.  Just crank out a story about demons and mutant Hounds, love and stolen books, but honestly?  It was bloody hard to recall what I'd written months prior, plus every chapter had to more or less end in a cliffhanger--old school serial writing hook.

Still.  One year and 4 days.  61,069 words.  149 pages.  43 chapters and 1 epilogue.

I did it.

And yeah.  I'm smiling...

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Seeing Is Believing...

Just as I was dropping off to sleep last night, one of my meandering neurons stumbled across a path that took me to Christmas Eve when I was a kid.  I smiled at the long-forgotten memory, the year I was seven.
We lived in a small house back then.  Perfect for a newly married couple, no problem for three, still doable when my sister arrived because we shared a bedroom, but when my baby sister joined the mix, the house was just too small for five and we moved not long after.
Because the bedroom wasn't very big, my sister and I slept in a trundle bed.  I got the real bed, she got the part that pulled out at night.  From the bottom of her bed I could see across the hall into the living room and watch the television.  There wasn't much my parents watched that was interesting, it was just the fact I could do it without them knowing that was the daring part.
To make room for the Christmas tree, presents and stockings, the furniture had to be moved around the house, some stuff even out to the garage.  The view from the bottom of the bed now was the tree and presents.  I loved to lay there and watch the ornaments sparkle in the lights and imagine what treasures were under the tree.
That Christmas Eve, when I was seven, I woke up in the middle of the night.  It was dark, and so very quiet, though I could hear my sister breathing, and when I listened hard, I could make out my father's snores from down the hall.  I knew it was too early to get out of bed, too early to bounce across the mattress and run to the living room to see what Santa had brought us.
With that edgy kid-sense of doing something you shouldn't--part excitement, part terror--I crept to the bottom of my sister's bed and peered across the dark hallway to the living room.  My parents had left the porch light on and a very small beam of light lay on the carpet, just enough for me to see the tree.  I could still hear the soft rumble of my father's snores as I stared at the elf, dressed in red and white striped leggings and curly green shoes, with a funny hat that drooped on his head, one side caught on a pointy ear.  I must have made a noise because he turned to look at me.  We stared at each other for a minute, then fear kicked in and I scrambled back to bed, pulled the covers over my head and shook like a leaf from shock and fright.
I didn't think I could possibly sleep as I lay there wondering how to make it down the hall to my parents' bedroom, but the next thing I knew, it was morning and my sister was yelling that Santa had come, it was time to get up! 

Some weeks earlier a girl at school had told us--the younger kids--that there really wasn't a Santa Claus.  She seemed very sure of her facts and I had been teetering on the brink of losing my happy childish belief.  Now I was really confused between what she'd said and what I'd seen the night before.  While presents were opened, breakfast was made, and chaos reigned in a small house filled with children and excitement, I wondered how to tell my parents.
When I finally got up the courage, they told me, of course, that I'd been dreaming.  No matter how I described what I'd seen, even down to the extra long nose and curly-toed shoes, it was nothing more--could be nothing more--than a dream or my vivid imagination.  I even tried telling some of my friends at school, but they didn't believe me either.

And as it goes when we leave childhood behind, other things fill the empty spaces and we move on, grow up, and tell our children the stories we once believed ourselves.

I haven't told this tale since I was a little girl.  No one was convinced then, and you dear readers probably aren't convinced now, though that's okay.

Because I know what I saw...

Saturday, December 14, 2013

1000 Cranes

Inspiration comes in all shapes and sizes.  I get inspired to write a story by overhearing just a snippet of conversation whilst standing in line at the grocery store; I discover a book because I was inspired by a review of an author's work; I was inspired to learn a new thing from a one minute blurb on the television.

Really.  One minute.

Here's how it happened...

A commercial starts with this little girl crying, her father comforts her by giving her a tiny little silver origami crane.  Next comes a series of little vignettes as the girl grows up and at each stage in her life, whether she's lost the big game, or fallen off her bike, or gets dumped by her boyfriend, her Dad is there to comfort her...and he always gives her a little silver crane.  At the end she's going off to college and Dad is loading the car with the stuff she's taking with her.  He accidentally drops a smallish cardboard box...and out tumble dozens and dozens of little silver cranes.  It's one of the best ads ever, though don't ask me what the product is.  Don't have a clue.  I was too busy tearing up over the story.

So, later I'm thinking about those silver cranes, and origami..and why haven't I ever learned how to do such a cool thing?  I go online, print out instructions, dig out some paper from my craft supply cupboard and have a go.

And let me just say straight out that origami might look easy, but man, I think it took me an hour to decipher the folding diagrams, and I went through many sheets of paper that ended up in frustrated balls the recycling bin.  Finally I got smart, went back online and watched a video...over and over and over.  My initial crane looked like a frog with a stick up his butt.

Yesterday I went to the craft store and bought some real origami paper--which turns out to be much lighter than what I was using, and perfectly square which is very important.  Then after another Google, I finally found the best instructions (meaning I could understand them) and last night I was determined to teach myself how to make a real origami crane. 

[And on the topic of instructions: I found three completely different methods to make the crane, though I don't understand why there should be a difference--it's the same bird.  One was so convoluted and complicated, it should be taught to grad students working toward their doctorates in quantum physics; one didn't work at all, I think they must have left out a step or three.  Though on the other hand, there are probably ten-year-old kids out there who can do this in their sleep...]

The most wonderful 500-sheet assortment of authentic Japanese origami paper.  The colors are rich and yummy, and perfect 6" squares.  And hey!  My first little crane that actually looks like it's supposed to...

So, the first one took me about fifteen minutes and one wasted sheet of gorgeous red paper.  The one above took me about ten minutes.  Then I had a great idea for getting the technique cemented in my brain:

Decorating my wee Christmas tree with red crane ornaments...

What fun it is to make these little birds.  And I can make one now in about two minutes.  Once I wrapped my head around the weird folding bits, the technique is truly easy to master.

Along the way, I discovered there is an old Japanese legend that says anyone who folds 1000 paper cranes will so please the gods, the folder is granted a wish, usually for health, good luck or a long life.  In some stories it's said for the wish to come true, the 1000 cranes must be made within one year and can only be done by the person making the wish.

I wonder how long it would actually take to fold 1000 cranes?  I'm thinking this might be a fun thing to do in the new year.  I don't know exactly what I would do with that many cranes, though I saw several cool ideas online.

I loved these...

So, inspired by a poignant and wonderful one minute advertisement on television, I have taught myself an amazing and beautiful art form that has further inspired me to attempt the 1000 Crane project in 2014. 

How cool is that?

Friday, December 13, 2013

Week 50 of the 52s...Posole

For a couple of months I've known what Week 50 was going to be.  I've planned, anticipated and hopped up and down impatiently every single time I've watched the trailer.   Because today, dear readers, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug opened, the next episode of Peter Jackson's epic tale.  A movie that most critics and viewers alike are saying is absolutely amazing, beautiful and a wonder of special effects.

After all my waiting, the day has finally arrived...and I can't go.

Well, I guess I could still go...if I wanted to risk coming out of the theatre to freezing rain and no way to make it back up the mountain.  (Deep sighs, a few lip quivers and several scorching curses ensue).

So, earlier this morning when I realized my expected thrills were dashed, I floundered a bit.  Now what?  I have nothing for the 52s this week and holy crap, I can't falter this close to the end!

Then I remembered a recipe I've had for quite awhile that I've always wanted to try.  I've eaten this at restaurants, but never made it myself.  I dig around in my recipe file (loose scraps of paper, pages torn from magazines and handwritten scribbles crammed willy-nilly between cookbooks) and eureka! I actually found it.

Posole.  An ancient Aztec specialty of hominy (maize to those guys) and red beans, jalapeno and green chiles, onions and garlic, tomatoes and chicken, simmering together in a pot all day.

Before I walked the boys, I made the Posole, and when we came home an hour or so later, the house smelled exactly like that moment when you walk into a really good Mexican restaurant: spice and heat, salsa and corn chips, refried beans and cheese, sour cream and avocado.  Honestly, I walked up the stairs into the kitchen, closed my eyes and inhaled the heavenly aroma of all things Spanish.  I truly love cultural foods.

Posole, my little cornbread muffins, and you can't have a bowl of Aztec stew without a really good beer.  My preference?  Dos Equis Amber...hearty, medium dark, perfect.

The stew had a slight kick--just the right amount of heat from the chiles--but with the cornbread and beer to temper it, this was a delicious, warm-your-bones thing to eat on a cold Winter's night.

I guess if I had to postpone my Hobbit adventure, at least my excellent Posole made up for it.  Almost...

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Houston? We Have Liftoff...

Again, dense icy fog to start my day.  I could feel tiny hairline cracks splintering my brain.  Flashes of Jack Nicholson, snowbound crazy at the Overlook Hotel, crept into my head, but I was determined to get down this bloody mountain today regardless of weather, a mental breakdown or alien invasion.
The boys and I walked the road before lunch so I could get a feel for the terrain.  As we're rounding one of the hazardous bits by my closest neighbor, I see him in his driveway trying to break through the ice with a pickax.  I haven't seen him for over a week. and as it turns out he was stuck down in the flats for the six days I was stuck on the mountain.  Pretty funny.  Sort of.  He told me in the 22 years he's lived here, he's never been stuck a single day, and never seen ice like we've had this past week.  Lucky me then.
So, I have lunch, feed the boys, and get in my prepared-for-anything gear: thermal undershirt, flannel shirt over that, fleece hoody, water/wind resistant parka shell, jeans, heavy socks, all terrain hiking boots, mittens, scarf and my favorite wool hat.  I have extra boots, socks, gloves and a parka in the car.  And, yes, I was a Girl Scout.  I put my cell phone in my back pocket, take one step toward the stairs to the garage...and the phone rings.
** sigh **
A few weeks ago I went to Lowe's and ordered new blinds for the living room.  They were having a really, really good sale and I'm fed up with the metal Venetians that generate heat in the scorching Summer sun, turning my house into a furnace.  I figured it would take quite some time for 11 blinds to be made and delivered.  Especially factoring in the weather between somewhere back East and southern Oregon.  I figured wrong, it seems.
It's the FedEx guy with my blinds.  He'll be at the house in an hour or so.  I'm glad to have the blinds, but damn.  I'm dressed like Nanook of the bloody North and now have to take everything off then put it all back on again.   I explain to the guy that I've been stuck on the mountain for nearly a week and I must get away today.  He laughs and promises not to hold me up and an hour and a half later, here comes this huge FedEx truck lumbering down the road.  I didn't think on a regular day he could have made the sharp turn into my drive--let alone on layers of ice--and it took a few tries, but he made it.  His spinning tires and the slip/slide thing sort of freaked me out a bit though.
So, he unloads the boxes, skids down my drive and I get back into my prepared-for-anything gear, put the Blazer in 4-wheel and off I go.  There were a couple gnarly bits on the way down, places in the winding road where the sun don't shine, but I didn't have any problems at all.  And truly, if I could wave a magic wand and turn my Blazer into a man, I would marry him.  I mean it.  I love my car.  Reliable, trustworthy, and takes excellent care of me.  My kind of guy...
Then I got to the main highway, and this peculiar sensation sort of swept over me.  It was surreal to see cars and people, hear traffic noise, and sirens off in the distance...and not see a single snowflake or glint of ice.  I felt oddly removed, like Rip Van Winkle, as if the real world had just carried on without me.  It was even more unsettling at the store, which was packed with holiday shoppers and bargain hunters (I'm so out of the loop, I didn't know there was a gigantor sale today).  Course, it doesn't take long and I'm back in the swing of things.  I got all my groceries, then went to the coffee place and had a mocha before heading home. 

I was slightly concerned about getting up my driveway, but I shouldn't have wasted the energy.  The Blazer cruised up with ease.

Freezing rain by Friday, followed by more snow next week might put me right back into Jack's mentality, but for now, for today, I made it to civilization and back without a hitch...

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Anyone There? **tap tap** Hello?

My lovely long weekend of forced laziness due to snow and icy conditions is now turning into a borderline case of cabin crazies.  Even the dogs are getting testy.  We haven't been off the mountain for nearly a week.  Six incredibly long days. No mochas at my favorite coffee kiosk, no human conversation, not even any mail (and hey, aren't they supposed to deliver mail no matter what?)

The temps have been in the very low teens so the ice isn't melting, then for a tiny short window in the afternoon, it marginally warms up, ice softens, the sun sets...and another sheet of ice forms over the top of the previous day's layer.  Since last Friday, I've been able to walk the boys in the snow along the edge of the road, but now even the snow has morphed into ice.  Yesterday I nearly did a face plant when I found myself skating instead of walking in what should have been snow, not camouflaged ice.

Max doesn't want to go out at all anymore because on Sunday he got trapped in the middle of the road on 4" of solid ice and couldn't stay on his feet.  Frantically, he flailed, fell, crawled, fell, cried, fell, scrambled, fell...all in the two minutes it took me to rescue him.  Now he's totally freaked out and thinks the ground under his feet is yet another thing to be afraid of.

There are three really dangerous patches of ice between my house and freedom.  And that doesn't count my steep driveway--if I don't turn sharp, I'll go right over the embankment.  I'm pretty sure the Blazer can handle it, though past my house is a gnarly section by my neighbor's place that never gets sun so the ice is really thick, then another stretch near the mailbox, but the worst part is at the hairpin turn to head down the winding road to town.  I have no idea what condition it's in, though yesterday I hiked to a viewpoint at the far end of my road and could see cars and clear, dry roads in the valley, so I know once I get out, I'll be fine.  Course, getting back might be a different story, but whatever, one problem at a time.

So anyway, today I was making a break for it.  I'd planned a trip to the post office to mail my Christmas cards, then wanted to get more groceries as freezing rain is now predicted for this coming weekend.  Instead, I woke up to dense, icy fog.  I hoped it would lift, been waiting all day, but no such luck.  It's approaching 4:00 now, and will be dark by 5:00.

I'll have to try again tomorrow.  Seriously try.  Like buckle your seatbelt, I'm getting off this frigging mountain or else try.  Because too many more days stuck up here and I think it wouldn't take much for me to turn into one of those hermit people who rarely bathe, eat wild vegetation, and have entire conversations with their socks.

You think I'm kidding...

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Going Nowhere

The snow continued to fall through the day and into the early evening yesterday.  When I measured it--after my most delicious soup dinner--it was a bit over 6".  Strangely, around 10:00 last night a warm wind blew through and the snow slowly began to melt.  I was so disappointed.

But, at some point after I went to bed the temperature plummeted again.  When I got up this morning it was 13* and everything was encased in ice.

Dawn sunrise from the front deck...

Looking north from the back deck...

When it snows, the contours of the coast range mountains, west across the valley, are clearly visible.  I took this shot from the living room, between two cedar trees that line the driveway...

After breakfast, I took the boys for a walk to see how bad things were on the road.  I figured there would be solid ice under the snow after the partial melt last night. 

Mountain folk know how to drive in all kinds of weather...as the tire tracks prove.  Bunny lives at the end of those tracks.  She's originally from the far north in Canada--used to treacherous Winters--and her husband George is a no-nonsense kind of a guy who wouldn't let a wee bit of ice and snow slow him down for any reason...

For my part, I also know how to navigate foul weather, but it's not me that I worry about whilst out and about...it's the other guy.  A lesson learned from my Dad, who drilled that concept into my head repeatedly when I was learning how to drive--and for years after whenever he was a passenger in my car. 

So, though my trusty Blazer will no doubt take me to infinity and beyond, I prepared instead.  Earlier in the week when I heard we were going to have a snow storm with record-breaking cold, I went to the store and stocked up.

A good thing, too.  The boys and I walked to the mailbox through ankle-deep snow--which for the dogs is belly-scraping depth--but underneath was easily 3" of black ice.  It's sunny and clear today, though only about 22* right now in the early afternoon.  No heat in the sun, of course, and with the temps dropping to the teens at night, I could be staying home for awhile. 

And yes, I'm smiling, thank you for noticing.

After we got home from the walk, I took a few more photos, then had to pull mini-snowballs off Ozzy's stomach and back legs.  It's tough having long hair. 

Long Needle and Mugo pines.  I love how the snow made little tufts on one and long feathers on the other.  The large fern is at the edge of my drive...

Guess I'm housebound now for at least the weekend...and I am so fine with that.  It's actually very liberating, not being able to go down the mountain.  I might even be feeling that kid-like euphoria when you realize it's a snow day and school's been cancelled.

Except better, because I have food and books...and whiskey.

Friday, December 6, 2013


At last.  A perfect day.  Woke up to snow and dark clouds and that wonderful hush that only comes with snow.  The boys are not thrilled--nothing like snow on the manly bits--though I'm very pleased we're not going down the mountain today.  After breakfast I put together the ingredients for turkey soup and it's now simmering away in the crock pot--and thankfully, that's the last of the bird.

Contentment isn't a feeling that comes often, is it?  It's one of those fleeting emotions, like being blissfully happy or totally at ease, emotions we have to treasure and savor because the gods will be jealous and won't hesitate to ruin it for us. 

Today I am content.  The house is warm, the soup smells delicious, the dogs are napping, and I'm alive, to watch snow fall and birds peck at seeds and deer munch on the tall grass across the road. 

Today I am content.  Because the snow has made everything pure and clean.  It doesn't matter that underneath the illusion lurks the reality of melting snow and dirty slush.  Right now, in the soft, pristine beauty of this moment...magic surrounds me.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Week 49 of the 52s...Real Deal

Monday, in the midst of all my running around, I drove to my favorite coffee kiosk and ordered my usual.  They weren't busy, so while I waited for Heidi to make the drink, Nicole began to chat with me about Christmas, buying presents, yada yada.  Nicole mentions that she loves Pier 1 but it's way too expensive, and good thing Real Deal is around cuz they're at least 50% cheaper.

My mind whirls as she runs through a litany of things she's bought at this mystery place.  When I can get a word in, I ask her if it's anywhere within an hour radius of where we are currently talking.  She laughs and says it's just right out in the valley, all the locals know about it.  Is she talking about the valley below my house?  The same valley I have criss-crossed numerous times in the past two+ years?

By now my coffee is ready.  I pay, wait for change, and ask how I find this Real Deal.  Between the two of them, pointing, gesturing, contradicting each other, I discover that I just might know "the big green shed-looking building" they're talking about.  I thought the only thing in that building was the taxidermist, though, come to think of it, the taxidermist would have to be stuffing a tribe of Sasquatch to need that much space.

I'm all excited now.  I have insider info and can't wait to check out this warehouse of goodies.  Then Heidi casually mentions, as she hands me my change, that the place is only open on Sunday afternoons and all day Thursdays.  That's it.  A day-and-a-half per week. 

Impatiently, I wait, until finally it's Thursday.  I had several errands to run in the morning, but managed to get to Real Deal this afternoon.  And seriously, can you even imagine, dear readers, that there could be anything worth looking at inside this building?

Now, I have to say, I was just a tad disappointed that most of the shop has been turned over to Christmas gewgaws and ornaments, Santas and holiday d├ęcor.  I will have to go back in the new year because I could see some really intriguing and cool stuff buried under the layers of Christmas.

First thing in the door.  This was just one of many, many shelves, tables, sideboards, cupboards, nooks and crannies that were covered in holiday cheer...

It was a very festive atmosphere, with cinnamon and apples scenting the air, Christmas carols playing and a huge crowd of people--no doubt because of that pesky "only open a day-and-a-half per week" issue.  Unfortunately, due to the sheer volume of moving, shuffling, 'scuse me, pardon me bodies, I wasn't able to take many photos. 

Even the walls were covered, with some great signage and lovely artwork.  There was a large oil painting that just totally captivated me, called "Lost in a Dream" of a boat drifting down a placid river, foggy tendrils trailing behind, both sides of the river lush with greenery and large shade trees.  I tried to get a decent shot, but they had a spotlight that screwed with my camera.

I liked this...

Way in the back, far from the Christmas stuff and the people, I found the "junk drawer" room.  Lots of weird things, everything on sale.  On the floor in a corner a large grouping of palm leaves caught my eye.  They were made of hammered tin and honestly, I loved how they looked, though for the life of me couldn't figure out what to do with them.

So, in the end I bought myself a little Christmas tree.  I've decided since I don't have a regular tree, I'm going to buy little ones.  Last year--my first tree--I bought one with spangles, this year it's a pine, wrapped in burlap like a living tree would be.  Maybe some day I'll have enough different little trees to make my own unique forest...that would be cool, wouldn't it?

But for now, the two I have will do just fine...

It was fun to discover a new place for the 52s today.  An Aladdin's Cave of treasures were in that innocuous green building.  I can't wait to go back...

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Wake Up, Little Suzy...

I think I'm suffering from an overdose of tryptophan.  Really.  Because if a body eats turkey for five straight days, the lethargic, loss of motivation, need frequent naps thing must kick in.  That's the only reason I can come up with for my total lack of give-a-shit.
The past few days have been very busy, though throughout all the shopping and appointments, inside/outside work, and daily life...it feels like I'm slogging knee-deep in molasses.  I was making the bed this morning and all I could think about was how great it's going to be to crawl back under that flannel duvet tonight. 

It's got to be the turkey.
I don't have SAD (seasonal affective disorder), where a person gets all depressed from the gloom and doom of Winter.  I actually love rain, and black clouds, and dreariness--no doubt due to spending my formative years under six months of darkness in Alaska.  No, it's that nuclear, burning yellow orb that affects me.
Maybe my brain is subliminally telling my body to slow down, be mindful, acknowledge that another year is soon to end and a brand new year full of the unknown is coming.  Or maybe I just want to hibernate...

Saturday, November 30, 2013

St Andrews Day


Saint Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland, and November 30th is Scotland's official national holiday.  There are celebrations throughout the country with traditional Scottish food, music and dance.  Today kicks off the season of winter festivals, like Hogmanay (New Year's) and Burns Night (Robert Burns birthday).

Happy St Andrews Day to all my friends and family!  Goes without saying that I wish I was there to share in the celebrations...

Friday, November 29, 2013

Week 48 of the 52s...The Grange

I got a call this morning from my friend Bunny, who lives further along the mountain road from my house.  She invited me to go with her and a few of her family members to the annual Christmas show at the Grange, down in the valley.  Unfortunately, I was just heading out with the boys for the morning walk, but after getting directions, I said I would try to meet up with her.
Course, the dogs were in dawdle mode so by the time I was finished with the walk, then drove out into the valley and found the place, Bunny and family were long gone.  Still, I've never been in a grange in my whole life, I'm a city girl, so this would be something new for sure.
Though the photo below doesn't show it, the parking lot was packed.  Turns out the Crafters Guild plans for this all year and it's a local kick-off the Christmas season event where most of the county will show up at some point between Friday and Sunday.

There were crafts of every make and model you could imagine.  I meant to take more photos, but got sidetracked by all the wonderful things to look at.  There was a small stage area so I took a moment for this quick shot, though it only shows a small portion of the room.  Way in the back there was the bakery area with Christmas candies and cookies and other temptations...

I had great conversations with some guild women, bought a few things, and had a really pleasant and far better Black Friday than most of the world, I'm sure.
My little snowman in a bird's nest.  He is adorable and I couldn't resist...

In the Seattle years, my BFF and I had a business together.  One of our best-sellers were fabric baskets like this.  I know just how difficult these are to make.  I loved the color and the tiny cording and the beautiful workmanship...er...workwomanship?  Plus, I'm a basket person, you can never have enough of them...

I don't usually buy handmade soaps.  I know how to make my own, though for the most part I just use shower gels these days.  Except, this one guild member had the most amazing variety, I couldn't believe it.  The soap is made from her own herbs and from the milk of her own goats.  The smells were heady and fresh and unique.  I wish I had some way for you, dear readers, to smell the bar I bought because, frankly, I can't begin to describe it...

...maybe...like a man, fresh out of the shower; or a mossy glade in the deep forest; or sunlight on warm skin.  Or all of that and more.  It's heavenly.

She had another soap I wish I'd bought, and I just might go back before Sunday.  It was called Earth and smelled like...that moment in Spring, when the ground is just warming and you dig in with your shovel to turn the soil for the first planting of the season.  It smelled like rich loam and green grass and promise.

One of the local Native American tribes had a beautiful booth, with leatherwork and Dreamcatchers and beaded items.  I saw several women carrying around tiny little baby moccasins which I heard are very sought after.  I love Dreamcatchers, though haven't had one since I came back to America.  This one seemed right and I will most likely hang it in the car.  It's small--only about 3" across--and will fit nicely with my other rearview mirror danglers.

Then.  I don't know what possessed me.  Well, wait.  Actually I do.  It was this sweet little woman, no bigger than a minute, with the most twinkling, mischievous eyes, like a tiny sparrow.  She's been making dolls, mostly Raggedy Annes, for nearly seventy years.  Yep, that's right, seventy years.  I think it's a family affair now--daughter, granddaughter--and she very proudly told me she will be 93 on her next birthday.  I loved her.  After talking with her, I just had to have one of the dolls...

Is this the cutest thing, or what?

She tea-dyed the fabric and the lace edging to make her look older and a bit worn.  But for me, it was the face.  And just look at the corkscrewed hair!  Too, too cute...

Every couple of years, Alan and I would leave Edinburgh behind and go down to London for Christmas.  We always had a great time wandering and shopping and eating our way through town.

Harrods has a Christmas teddy bear, different every year.  They are very beautiful, collectible creatures, and those times we went to London, Alan would buy me a Harrods bear for my Christmas present.

Why am I telling you this, dear readers?

Because my little Raggedy Anne has joined the Christmas bears...

What a great way to spend one of my least favorite days of the year.  I found some cool things, met some very interesting people, and did a really fun thing for this week in the 52s.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Being Thankful

...Wishing you all a most wonderful day...

And even if you don't celebrate this holiday, dear readers, 
still take a moment to give thanks for what you have

Life is too short not to appreciate every moment